They Wrote the Book Summary

They Wrote the Book

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

As senior commissioning editor and rights manager at the Women’s Press, Helen Windrath has edited or co-edited books as varied as The Women’s Press Book of New Myth and Magic (1993), Something to Savour: Food for Thought from Women Writers (1996), and The Female Odyssey: Visions for the 21st Century (1999). By her own admission, however, Windrath has a penchant for mysteries. Accordingly, she has been responsible for the publication of some excellent crime fiction, and she herself has edited two books about the genre, Reader, I Murdered Him, Too: Crime Stories (1997) and They Wrote the Book: Thirteen Women Mystery Writers Tell All.

Some of the contributors to this volume about the writing process are British, others American, and one of them, Jean Bedford, is from New South Wales. Some are famous: the award-winning Val McDermid; Gillian Linscott, creator of the suffragette detective Nell Bray; and Marcia Muller, whose Sharon McCone mysteries are bestsellers throughout the world. Others are not yet so well-known. However, it is evident that all of them have thought deeply about what they do and that they are more than willing to share their insights.

What may be most striking about They Wrote the Book is that the essays are almost never repetitious. Even if they deal with the same subject, as when Val McDermid, Marcia Muller, Chris Niles, and Ellen Hart all discuss character creation, each writer has a different perspective. In “The Wrong Way: My Approach to Plot, Process and Endings,” Joan M. Drury sums up what experience has taught her: that there is no “wrong” way to write a book. This may be the most important insight in a fascinating volume.